With the recent flare-up of conflict between Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and Israeli forces (one could probably say this every 3 months and it would refer to a different skirmish) and the subsequent voluminous commentary that has followed, I got to thinking about an encounter I had while travelling abroad.
I was living in the Caribbean a few years back, and while I met hundreds of very interesting people from diverse backgrounds, one of the ones that really stood out was this. I had become acquainted with a cool Spanish-speaking Jew whose family, I presumed, I had ended up there during the mini-diaspora from Nazi-era Germany.
I couldn’t help but bring up the Middle East problem and asked him, “What the heck is the real issue there? Why can’t this be resolved in a peaceful and humane manner, much in line with the core tenets of all 3 of the religions that birth from this area? Is it essentially a turf war built around resentment at the British creation of Israel from parts of Palestine?”. At the time, I reasoned that was the root of this problem and certainly made sense to me.
His response completely floored me then since I simply did not expect it, but naturally in retrospect makes sense now. In as basic Spanish as he could manage, for I am by no means a fluent speaker, he went into great detail about a story from the Old Testament of the Bible that I vaguely recalled due to having grown up more or less as a Christian. It is the story of Ishmael.
To sum it up, Abraham wanted a child but for whatever reason was unsuccessful in having one with his wife Sarah. The way this guy explained it to me, God had told Abraham to have faith and that he would have one in due time. Abraham, however, grew increasingly impatient and finally decided to have a child with his Egyptian maidservant, Hagar. This child Ishmael, he said, is considered the father of the Arab nation, while the Jews consider the son that Sarah eventually bore, Isaac, a proper continuation of the line.
Furthermore, he basically said that because Ishmael was born out of defiance of God imploring him to have faith about having a child with Sarah, that Ishmael and by proxy the Arab nation was birthed from infidelity to God.
I bring this up not as some kind of moral fable in and of itself – because quite frankly it’s this kind of crap that makes me say that I’m “spiritual, not religious” (since I’m of the opinion that there are some Weird Things going on that there are no clear explanations for). I’m a long-time student of comparative religion in the sense that it seems quite clear to me that all the major religions are basically saying the same thing and the differences between them are simply superficial, similar to linguistic and other cultural differences – as I have said many times before, “Same light, different lampshade”. Once it starts getting organized and canonized and all this other garbage, it becomes degraded into power, corruption and lies and ends up being the hypocritical antithesis of everything it professes to bring to humanity.
No, I bring this up to illustrate to people just how deep and profound the underlying differences and disagreements are between the Arab and Judaic peoples, for the further end of showing just how futile and pointless it is to intervene in such an irrational conflict.
Update: It’s important to point out, I think, that this religious conflict is capitalized upon by military-industrial complexes to… basically justify their business.
AIPAC rules America